Rex Ryan Must Be Careful Not to Repeat Previous Mistakes with Bills

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IJanuary 12, 2015

En fotografía del 28 de diciembre de 2014 se ve a Rex Ryan,ex entrenador de los Jets de Nueva York, en una conferencia de prensa tras un partido. Los Bills de Buffalo anunciaron el lunes 12 de enero de 2015 que Ryan ocupará la posición de entranador que estaba vacante. (Foto AP/Lynne Sladky, archivo)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The Rex Ryan era ended with the New York Jets just two weeks ago, but the Rex Ryan era in New York and in the AFC East will live on.

The Buffalo Bills have officially announced that Ryan will be the team's head coach in 2015. 

And quite honestly, this is not an ideal situation for him. 

Sure, he was probably salivating at the thought of going from one dominant defensive line to another and working with a Bills defense that ranked fourth in points and yards. That unit could be even better under Ryan's tutelage. And now, Bills fans could see a fusion of the 2013 and 2014 defensive schemes, which were coordinated (respectively) by Ryan's protégé Mike Pettine and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.

But my, how quickly Ryan forgot that the offense—more specifically, a lack of a quarterback—was his undoing in New York. The Bills are in no kind of shape to improve the quarterback position this offseason; they have no first-round pick, there are few—if any—legitimate available free-agent options, and the Bills' current depth chart consists of EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel.

Jets offensive rankings under Rex Ryan
Passing yards312221303132
Pass TDs29239293230
Rushing yards14221263
Rush TDs3912131817
3rd down %131111212021
Red zone %171412282928
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Ryan would have been much better off going somewhere with an established offense, one that could operate autonomously behind a proven quarterback with talented skill-position players. He is a brilliant defensive mind, but left to his wares on offense, we've seen what happens.

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In six years under Ryan, the Jets offense ranked 13th in scoring twice (2010-2011). They finished outside the top half of the league each year besides those two and finished in the bottom five in each of his final three years.

The Bills have already begun making moves on the offensive staff as well, with their sights set on San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com:

Matt Maiocco @MaioccoNBCS

Source: Ex-#49ers OC Greg Roman agreed to same job on Rex Ryan’s staff with the Bills. He’ll fly to Buffalo today and sign contract there.

The Bills could certainly do a lot worse than Roman. The 49ers offense ranked 11th in scoring three times under his tutelage from 2011-2013. Their offensive success was predicated on a strong running game and mistake-free football; the 49ers finished in the top 10 in rushing each of his four years as coordinator and finished among the top 10 in fewest turnovers in the league from 2011-2013 and 11th in 2014.

For years under Chan Gailey, the Bills' talented running backs, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, were underutilized. Things changed when Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett arrived on the scene, and the Bills were No. 1 in the league in rushing attempts. Then in 2014, the Bills went back to their old ways and ranked 20th in rushing attempts.

Under Ryan, the Jets brought infamy to the phrase "ground-and-pound." If Ryan has his way on offense, the Bills will be the groundiest, poundiest team in the NFL. The Jets ranked in the top five in his first two years as the head coach and in the top 10 in his last two years.

That philosophy could work (although he and Roman should be pounding the table for the Bills to bring Spiller back even if only on a one- or two-year prove-it deal following the collarbone injury that nearly ended his season), but without an efficient quarterback to run it all, the scheme eventually runs out of steam.

That is why the Bills have to make a hard push to find an upgrade at quarterback over Manuel—either that, or Manuel must make huge strides between now and the 2015 season.

One person who could be in line to make some huge strides is cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The 6'1", 190-pound former first-round pick is loaded with potential as a bump-and-run, man-to-man cornerback. Darrelle Revis was never known as "Revis Island" until Ryan showed up in New York.

Gilmore may not ascend to those heights right off the bat, but the arrival of Ryan's aggressive defensive scheme is quite possibly the best thing that could have happened to him. 

Jets defense under Rex Ryan
Passing yards16522214
Pass TDs1192101930
Rushing yards83132635
Rush TDs11122726611
3rd down %1152111330
Red zone %5251625426
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Ryan has also never had a pair of defensive ends like Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes coming off the edge. In fact, a lack of edge pressure has been one of the recent downfalls of the Jets defense. Despite being known for an aggressive pass-rushing scheme, only three times (2010, 2013, 2014) did Ryan's defense rank in the top half of the league in sacks. 

Ryan's defense never mustered more than 45 sacks in a season. He now inherits a defense that finished with the second-most sacks in 2013 (57) and the most sacks in 2014 (54). 

The Bills defense should be exciting to watch, but the offense could be excruciating.

Quarterback play and offensive struggles have held Ryan back from realizing his full potential as a head coach. Some of the responsibility falls on him as the coach; some of it falls on the talent evaluators that surrounded him in New York.

Ryan must round out his game and become a better offensive coach, or the Bills must do everything possible to make sure that Ryan will not need to have anything to do with the offensive side of the ball. 

It's the only way the Bills can avoid the Ryan era coming to an end that's any different from the end experience of his time with the Jets.

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